Do Not Speak To Me Of Swimming

Do I look happy about this, or in any way relaxed?

Do I look happy about this, or in any way relaxed?

I have back injury that has caused me endless amounts of trouble. I have tried physical therapy, hanging upside down, consuming mounds of powdered turmeric, giving up exercise, and finally, spinal epidurals, which really do take the edge of—as long as I don’t  try to lift, bend, walk or do anything more strenuous than sit.

When I first consulted with my orthopedist about this latest repercussion from my horse wreck in 2009, he suggested, merely suggested, I try swimming, and fool that I am, I reported this suggestion to My Royal Consort.

Because I trust my doctor and have finally learned that he is always right in all matters orthopedic, I dutifully went to the YMCA to see about joining. When I saw how obscenely expensive the Y has become over the years, I was secretly delighted because it gave me a good excuse for not joining.

Instead of going to Plan B and working around the swim team schedule at the University of Rhode Island, as various people suggested I do, I stayed with the gym that is associated with the orthopedic practice I already go to.

My current regimen affords me a few hours of relief, plus the added benefits that come with plenty of exercise and good nutrition. But for my Royal Consort, my methods are somehow suspect, despite the fact that my physical therapist and a trainer custom made the routine for me and my orthopedist has given  me his blessing to work out to my heart’s content.

I am not sure who said this first, but it perfectly sums up my feelings about swimming: Swimming is just a prelude to drowning.

I can swim. Kind of. I can do the breast stroke and the doggy paddle. I know how to comport myself in the dodgy Rhode Island south shore surf without getting my teeth knocked out on a rock, and I can swim across our pond. If I have to swim, I like a hot July day, with small waves that I can ride or have fun diving under. Then I like to get out and bake in the sun until I am hot enough to go back in. If there are beer and snacks involved, I like that too. For me, water represents lolling about, and shouldn’t be too demanding.

I never learned how to do the crawl, and I hope I never have to. I was a black belt in karate, and endless push-ups, pull-up, lunges and sit-ups were more enticing than swimming laps in some skanky, damp, plantar-wart infested pesthole of a pool. I would rather run a 10k on a hot day with a backpack full of bricks. I’d rather endlessly practice lead changes on a three-legged horse. I’d pretty much rather do anything else than swim laps in a pool, or do water walking with a bunch of wrinklies in an aquacize class.

I have explained all of this to My Royal Consort, and to the other pool pests who plague me about the magical benefits of swimming. It seems simple enough to me. I can’t swim well, I don’t like swimming, and, the regimen that I have now works really well. Yet they persist. When they speak to me of swimming, what I hear them saying to me  is that I am really cheating myself by not doing this thing that I hate. Not only that, but I am probably making my problems worse by doing the thing that I actually enjoy.

The principal pool  pest in my life, the same one who refuses to take T ylenol when when he has a headache, and needs to be told to go to the doctor after nursing a chest cold for two weeks, has been known to join a gym and then stop going because it just wasn’t his thing.

The Principal Pool Pest just had his orthopedic expertise validated yet again today when he met an ER physician while walking in the woods. I wasn’t there for the conversation (obviously), but my orthopedic problems came up, and curses, the ER doc just had to mention that swimming would make me feel really great. To make matters worse, she knew of a saltwater pool two towns away that I might like better than a chlorinated pool. Yes, I think aquacizing in a salty, pee-filled pool two towns away would be much nicer!

We had this conversation at 1:30 pm. I had been tearing around all morning and had not eaten anything since breakfast. My blood sugar might have been a little low. But instead of picking up the bread knife, I took a deep breath and once again explained that I am not interested in aquacizing. Even if I did long to tread water with a bunch of octogenarians, traveling a half hour away to do this was not practical.

Do not speak to me of swimming, acupuncture, tai chi, inversion tables, reiki, TENS, chiropractic or massage, for that matter. If any of these methods really worked, people would be doing them and not opting for spinal epidurals and surgery, which sometimes work. If these alternative methods worked, as the lucky uninitiated folks claim they do, angels would sing, trumpets would blast, and lambs would be ritually sacrificed and offered up to the Gods.



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  1. Jody Petersen says:

    I am with so you on this one Liz! I love water, love to play in it, kayak tough rivers, bounce around in waves, pretend I’m a mermaid, play games with kids in any body of water. But I will NOT swim. Number one, it bores me to tears to swim back and forth, even in a lake. But is also KILLS my low back! When I had low back pain in my twenties and thirties everybody, and I mean everybody, recommended swimming. I tried it religiously and only ended up with more chronic pain. It is literally the only “sport” that I cannot engage in because of how it tweaks my back. I have one well meaning friend,whose only form of exercise is swimming. Whenever I have one of my ailments preventing me from hiking or other fun sports she says I should start swimming. Over and over again I tell her it hurts my back( never mind that I don’t live near a pool and I find pools kinda disgusting) she invariably says ” that doesn’t make sense” because as everyone knows SWIMMING IS GREAT FOR YOUR BACK PAIN!!

    Loving your writing Liz!

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